ITP Can’t Bring Me Down!

Marjorie Ligelis, 63, of Bowie, MD, has struggled with fluctuating platelet counts for 14 years. A year ago, her platelets had plunged to 4,000—the lowest they’ve ever been. Yet she always bounces back because “being happy is first and foremost,” says Marjorie. Here, she shares her strategies for living life to the fullest with ITP:

1. Call on your inner optimist.
“What has helped me most in dealing with ITP is seeing the glass as half full. I know there are a lot more treatment options now than when I was first diagnosed in 1998.”

It works! Optimistic women live longer than pessimistic women, concluded University of Pittsburgh researchers after reviewing eight years of data from the Women’s Health Initiative, a government study of more than 100,000 women over age 50 that began in 1994. In separate studies, researchers linked optimism with healthier lifestyle behaviors, such as not smoking and being physically active.

2. Don’t dwell on your disease.
“Other than getting my platelets checked once a month, I try not to think about my ITP. I go on with my life just like everyone else.”

Can’t stop thinking about ITP? Take a 10-minute timeout. Look up some friends on Facebook…make a list…remember the last five places you visited. Focusing on something else for a few minutes can break your thinking pattern.

3. Find joy.
“It’s important to find something that makes you happy so you can deal with the ups and downs of ITP.” For Marjorie, that means spending most weekends with her husband in Ocean City, MD, where she reads, relaxes and catches sea spray. “I lie in bed and watch the sun rise over the ocean. I'm very grateful that I’m able to regroup and clear my mind for the start of another week.”

4. Do what you love.
“It’s important to enjoy what you do. I love my work.”
Job-hunting? Consider a position that involves helping people. Research shows those who serve others, like Marjorie, are happiest with their jobs.

5. Stay connected.
Talking to other ITP patients “helps confirm that you’re not the only one going through this,” says Marjorie.

6. Remember it’s all relative.
“I’ve gotten through a lot of low counts by realizing that other people don’t die when their platelets are at an alarmingly low level. A lot of people freak out when their platelets are at 30,000, but I’ve been happy at that count.”

7. Keep testing new treatments.
“You have to take an active role in getting the best medical care you can,” says Marjorie, who along with trying several treatments, has participated in clinical trials.

8. Befriend your doctor.
Having an ongoing dialogue with a doctor you feel comfortable with is important, says Marjorie. “I've been with my doctor for 12 years, and she always responds to me when I need her.”

Published October 2013

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